Ayutthaya and Rayong chemical blazes linked
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Ayutthaya and Rayong chemical blazes linked

Police searching for culprits after latest fire causes evacuation of hospital in Ayutthaya

Intermediate bulk containers are seen stacked inside the chemical warehouse in Phachi district of Ayutthaya before it caught on fire on Wednesday. (Photo: Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand)
Intermediate bulk containers are seen stacked inside the chemical warehouse in Phachi district of Ayutthaya before it caught on fire on Wednesday. (Photo: Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand)

AYUTTHAYA - A warehouse where a chemical fire caused the evacuation of a hospital in this central province is owned by a company that is linked to a firm in Rayong where illegally stored chemicals caught fire last month, police say.

Thick smoke from the fire at the deserted chemical warehouse in Phachi district of Ayutthaya forced the temporary closure of the nearby Phachi Hospital on Wednesday night.

Of the 35 patients at the hospital, four were discharged and the rest were transferred to four other hospitals in the province, said Opas Karnkawinpong, permanent secretary for the Ministry of Public Health.

The fire broke out at about 6pm on Wednesday, engulfing the warehouse and sending smoke, tinged with the smell of chemical substances, to the hospital, which was about 600 metres away. The blaze was brought under control at about 2am Thursday.

According to officials, about 4,000 tonnes of mishandled chemicals, seized long ago and awaiting disposal, were stored at the warehouse on Uthai-Phachi Road.

Residents affected by the fire sought shelter at Wat Khok Muang, which also houses a school.

Health officials were checking on the affected people given the widespread smoke from the scene, said Dr Thongchai Keeratihattayakorn, director-general of the Department of Disease Control.

Government spokesman Chai Wacharonke said Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin had instructed the relevant agencies to work together to identify any remaining chemicals at the site and help people affected by the fire and smoke.

Thira Kaewphimon, an officer at the Ayutthaya industry office, said that after the fire, toxic chemicals had spread to areas around the warehouse and come into contact with concrete and metal nearby, causing chemical reactions and creating plumes of smoke that billowed up into the air.

Various agencies are working together to bring the situation under control and residents nearby have been advised to wear face masks, he said. (Story continues below)

Phachi Hospital in Ayutthaya was closed on Wednesday night after a fire broke out at a nearby warehouse. Thirty-one of its 35 patients were moved to other hospitals and four were discharged. (Photo: Sunthorn Pongpao)

Business links

A source at the Central Investigation Bureau said that Aek Uthai Co, based in Phachi district, rented the warehouse to store the chemical waste.

Police launched an investigation against the company under the Hazardous Substances Act last year, and are expected to conclude their work shortly, the source said.

The police Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NED) also found a link between the company and Win Process Co in Ban Khai district of Rayong, where two fires broke out at its hazardous waste storage site last month.

The first fire on April 22 affected 100 residents nearby. Officials did not rule out arson as the cause, noting the plant’s electricity supply had long been disconnected. A second blaze broke out on April 24, with authorities detecting high levels of dangerous chemicals in the air over the surrounding area.

The source said that some of the chemicals at the Rayong plant owned by Win Process had been transferred to five warehouses and plants owned by companies affiliated with Aek Uthai Co, including the warehouse at Phachi in Ayutthaya.

The other warehouses and plants are located in Uthai district in Ayuthaya, Nakhon Ratchasima and Phetchabun, the source said, adding that the NED is also pursuing legal action against them under the Hazardous Substances Act.

Police are also monitoring the other warehouses and plants to prevent any possible fire breaking out, the source added.

Pol Maj Gen Watcharin Phusit, the NED commander, said the fire at the warehouse in Phachi was the second one to have occurred there. Authorities are gathering evidence to take legal action against those involved, he said.

A driver captured this image of smoke from the Ayutthaya chemical fire on Thursday. (Photo: @bartelsv X account)

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